Balkan Regional Report – November 2022

SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS OF PUSHBACKS AND INTERNAL VIOLENCE DOCUMENTED BY BVMN DURING THE MONTH OF NOVEMBER

In November, the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) shared 13 testimonies of pushbacks impacting 175 people-on-the-move (POM) across the Balkans and Greece. This report brings together first-hand testimonies from a range of countries in the region to look at the way European Union states and other actors are affecting systemic violence towards people crossing borders.

BVMN is a network of watchdog organisations active in the Balkans and Greece including No Name Kitchen, Rigardu, Are YouSyrious, Mobile Info Team, InfoKolpa, Centre for Peace Studies, Mare Liberum, Collective Aid, Blindspots, Pushback Alarmphone Austria, I Have Rights and PIC. Combining insights from these different members, this month’s report covers:

  • Evictions in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Lack of access to services for POM in Samos
  • Deaths at the Greece-Turkey and Bulgarian-Turkey borders
  • Bus crash on the way to Diyarbakir Removal Center in Turkey
  • Updates from Trieste

Special Report: German Funding to Croatian Border Enforcement

This report by the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN), with the support of PRO ASYL, summarizes the results of an investigation into the support of German authorities for Croatian border authorities from 2016-2021 (and for deployments of officers, until 2022). It sheds a light on donations of equipment, the deployment of officers, and further kinds of support. In addition, the organisation of the Croatian police with regard to pushback operations is discussed.

On both political and practical levels, Germany has heavily supported Croatia in border enforcement and securitization efforts. This support has continued over the last several years despite overwhelming evidence of systemic human rights violations perpetrated by Croatian police forces against people-on-the-move (POM).

From 2016 until the 1st quarter of 2021, at least 24 German officers were deployed in Croatia as liaison officers in different capacities, in addition to those working for the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex). In the same period, the total sum of the vehicle and equipment donations (including thermal cameras and other surveillance technology, as well as non-border related topics) amounted to €2,862,851.36. German institutions further conducted at least 87 trainings, official visits, or evaluations of Croatian police forces, on topics ranging from prevention, the use of police dogs, border management, and surveillance. The sum of the cost of the trainings in the period 2016 – 2021 calculated is €422,168.84.

Of particular concern is the heavy involvement and provision of equipment by German institutions to the Intervention Police, which among other sectors of the Croatian police, has been identified as a key actor in systematic pushbacks along Croatian borders. In total, the Intervention Police received €158,171.98 in equipment donations and €47,539.92 in trainings from 2016-2021. A further €321,527.70 was provided specifically to the Special Police.

The extent of the systematic violent pushbacks along the Croatian border and the structures behind them suggest that equipment provided by Germany could also be connected to pushbacks along the Croatian border that violate international law.

Launch Event for the Black Book of Pushbacks: Expanded and Updated Edition

On Thursday 8 December 2022, the Border Violence Monitoring Network is releasing an expanded and updated edition of the Black Book of Pushbacks, consisting of more than 3,000 pages across four volumes. The majority of these pages are filled with testimonies from people-on-the-move who were beaten, kicked, insulted, humiliated and arbitrarily detained before being illegally pushed back both at the EU’s external borders and from deep within the territory of its Member States. In many cases these people were subject to different methods of torture such as rape, sexual abuse, excessive and prolonged beatings, the use of Electric Discharge Weapons against them, and even being shot at by border authorities and thrown into rivers, sometimes with their hands still ziplocked together. However, what this book evidences yet again is that these are not the sporadic actions of a ‘few bad apples’, nor are they coordinated actions by individual Member States; these are Europe-wide systems that have been reinforced from the very top. At the start of the book we look at how changes to the migration landscape in Europe, pioneered by the Commission, like the increased use of new technologies, the New Pact on Migration, and the strengthening of the EU’s own Agency Frontex, have only served to entrench more deeply inhumane and unfair asylum systems across Europe. With the first edition of this book we promised to publish a new edition until impunity ends, and here we are fulfilling that promise.

CLICK HERE FOR A LIVESTREAM OF THE LAUNCH

CONTENTS OF THE BOOK:

  • 3,176 pages
  • 1,635 testimonies impacting over 24,990 persons
  • Covering 16 countries

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL PUBLICATION!

Speaking on the launch of the book, MEP Cornelia Ernst (Die Linke, Germany) says:

“The new edition of the Black Book clearly shows the violence still experienced every day by women, men, children on the move at the EU’s external and internal borders. The EU Commission is still inactive, not starting infringement procedures against Member States who are pushing people back and denying them the right to asylum. Frontex is still operating in Greece, although its complicity in human rights violations there is no secret. We see that the right to asylum is seriously under attack: the EU is funding more and more border forces perpetrating violence and Member States like Poland, Lithuania and Latvia are adopting laws aiming at legalising push-backs, legislation that violates the EU and international law. This new edition aims at holding the EU and governments accountable for the tortures, the inhumane and degrading treatment and the violations of the right to life that people seeking safety in Europe face every day. As Members of the European Parliament we have to thank the activists and NGOs that have been documenting border violence, gathering testimonies and locations at the high risk of being criminalised by European governments, without whom this book would not exist. Many of them have been suffering attacks for speaking out against the violence and push-backs carried out by law enforcement authorities, and we would like to express our strong support to them.”

Hope Barker, Senior Policy Analyst for the BVMN, added:

“In 2020 we published the first Black Book, with over 900 testimonies, and called for an end to the culture of impunity that surrounds human rights violations in Europe. Two years later and illegal pushbacks continue unabated in spite of an increased evidence base, videos of perpetrators committing these crimes, and hundreds more testimonies. In this new expanded and updated edition of the Black Book we publish over 1,600 testimonies – and this is just the tip of the iceberg, there are hundreds of thousands of stories that we have not heard. We at BVMN again call for an end to this practice, for perpetrators to be held accountable, and for the human rights of all individuals to be respected.”

BVMN Statement on Czech Officers’ Involvement in Fundamental Rights Violations

Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) has requested the initiation of an investigation into potential human rights violations perpetrated by Czech officers deployed in Hungary and in North Macedonia. BVMN recorded instances of pushbacks and violence that could amount to torture or inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Article 4 EU Charter and Article 3 ECHR. Czechia currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union while not being compliant with European Union Law including the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Since 2020, BVMN has recorded accounts from people on the move who have been intercepted and apprehended in Hungary and North Macedonia and pushed back to Serbia and Greece respectively, without due process. People on the move have reported that Czech officers perpetrated violence against them that would amount to inhuman and degrading treatment or torture. Also, Czech officers have potentially assisted in human rights violations by apprehending people on the move and handing them over to national authorities with knowledge that people would be pushed back, or witnessed as violence was perpetrated against people, behaviour that might amount to aiding and abetting torture or inhuman and degrading treatment.

See the visual investigation into pushbacks involving Czech officers at the Greek-North Macedonian Border

BVMN Submission to the Evaluation of Frontex Regulation

Since its inception, BVMN has collected 1,575 pushback testimonies, affecting an estimated 24,990 people (BVMN, 2022). During pushbacks, BVMN has noticed a trend of ongoing and systematic violations of the fundamental rights of people on the move, constituting serious violations of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in Frontex operational areas. BVMN seeks to bring to the Commission’s attention information with regard to potential fundamental rights violations perpetrated with the acquiescence, complicity, or knowledge of Frontex. Through this submission, BVMN seeks to show that Frontex’s mandate is not in full compliance with its 2019 Regulation and that an expansion of its mandate at the expense of accountability mechanisms has provided the Agency with more powers and a toxic culture of impunity.

The European Commission will address at the end of the consultation process, in particular, the evaluation criteria of effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance, and EU added value. In the absence of criteria of respect for fundamental rights, BVMN seeks to submit evidence that Frontex is not compliant with its fundamental rights obligations and the Regulation leaves a large margin to the Agency to act with impunity.